Last Minute Tech Gifts for Christmas

Finding the Right Gift

 

Christmas is just one week away! If you’re last-minute gift shopping, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few techy gifts to consider for Christmas.

 

Kindle Paperwhite, 6 inches

Price: $139.99 CDN

Amazon Link.

Great for the bookworms out there who have too much paper in their life.

Echo Plus with built-in Smart Home Hub

Price: $169.99 CDN

Amazon Link.

Echo Plus connects to Alexa—a cloud-based voice service—to play music, make calls, set timers and alarms, ask questions, check traffic and weather, and more—instantly.

Fitness tracker

Price: $38.99 CDN

Amazon Link.

This smart bracelet can track your heart rate and all-day activities. It can display steps taken, distance traveled, calorie burned, etc. You can also check your latest history sports data by long pressing the side button for 2 seconds.

 

Plugged In Podcast

 

Listen here as 14 Oranges CEO, Sylvain Marcotte speaks on BCIT’s Plugged In Podcast about buying the right Christmas gift. What age is too young for techy gifts? Maybe a tech gift isn’t always the right gift…

 

BC Tech Industry: What To Expect In 2018

geo-fence cities

BC Technology Sector

 

 

The British Columbian tech sector is a hotbed for tech talent and economic growth. Over the past decade, BC tech has been the fastest growing industry in the province and currently accounts for 26 billion in annual revenue. Just a few months ago, Amazon committed to expanding its Vancouver office by adding over 1,000 jobs in the next 10 years.

 

 

BC’s rapid tech expansion, in combination with the political landscape in the United States, could mean more job openings and opportunities to come. With over 90,000 employees, the tech industry already employs more people than oil and gas, forest and mining industries combined. For years politicians and high-level executives have been pushing for a more efficient process to obtain new talent abroad. Companies are finding new ways to lure talent to the beautiful west coast, with desirable working conditions and quality of life.

 

Slack’s Vancouver office: Photo via Betakit https://betakit.com/an-inside-look-at-slacks-renovated-vancouver-office/

 

What does all of this mean heading into 2018? As demand for corporate expansion increases and the need for high-quality workers grows, we could see increased government intervention to aid the process. The average salary for a BC tech employee is 75% higher than BC’s provincial average; earning an average weekly salary of $1,590. Will demand outweigh supply? Will wages rise even more? Will the BC NDP party take action to match the rapid growth?

 

Plugged In Podcast

14 Oranges CEO and founder, Sylvain Marcotte, has been in the BC tech sector for a number of years. Sylvain shares some of the challenges small businesses face in BC and what to expect for the future. Check it out below in the latest edition of BCIT’s Plugged In Podcast.

 

 

Apple vs. The FBI- An Opinion in Favour of the Feds

So the FBI wants access to all your iPhone data right..

Well not exactly. Let’s step through it.

In tangible terms they are asking a company that makes a fireproof box with a lock on it to build them a tool that would allow them to try to make a copy of the key to that box. They aren’t even asking for the master key but a way to make a key for a specific device by electronically guessing all the possible permutations of the ridges and valleys on that key.

What Apple is saying is if we build that device to make a key it will compromise the security of everyone with an iPhone. This just is not accurate in my estimation.

The FBI would have a warrant in this case for everything this guy had, including his phone. They just don’t have a way to see the data on the phone. In the case of the fireproof box they could just blow the sucker open. They just need Apple’s help to build the tool.

One thing to expand upon at this point that before I wrote this I was unaware of. If you reinstall an OS on an Apple device, unless it is connected to the computer with which you last synced your device, the data will be erased and at present there is no way around this. This is a big reason why the FBI requires Apple’s help. If the FBI plays around too much, they could wipe the data forever.

Only those with the warrant are entitled to use the tool and this seems reasonable to me. The FBI is asking Apple to build a new version of its OS to install on an iPhone that would allow the FBI to bypass the login screen limitations (timeouts, number of tries etc.) and data wiping.  Unless I am missing something… As long as only the government has access to this version of iOS AND they have obtained the device in question legally by way of a warrant I am not sure I see this from Apple’s point of view.

So here is where I think Apple got it wrong. Tim Cook should have written a private letter to the FBI saying one thing. Apple is unaware of anyway to make this happen. A simple ‘we can’t do it’ would have sufficed. Instead a big long open letter to the world has opened Pandora’s Box, so to speak.

Now here is the tricky bit. Should Apple help the FBI? I would argue yes, safety trumps privacy in my estimation here but that’s just my opinion and Apple is clearly entitled to theirs. Should a US court be able to mandate Apple builds this tool for the FBI? Again this is a subjective question. Are they entitled by law in the US to compel this tool to be built. I think we will likely need the Supreme Court to weigh in on that one but here goes…

The FBI is using the All Writs Act of 1789 – Bare in mind I am no lawyer but basically, this reads as a ‘catchall’ the courts in the US can use to force compliance when no other legislation allows them to assert their jurisdiction. They have their mandate but no way to back it up so they use this ‘trump’ card (please pardon the pun). This Act is supposedly allowing the US government to make Apple build this tool for them in the interest of the FBI’s ability to do its job and assert its jurisdiction.

So back to the open letter. Complete guess here but this will go in front of another judge and the judge is going to ask this. How does building this OS for the FBI compromise any other device that is not lawfully in the possession of the FBI?

Apple has already answered this saying the FBI is asking for access to hundreds of other devices in other cases. So what Apple already admitted they have the technology or can build the technology to make this possible. The cat is already out of the bag.

In summary, my take. If the FBI has a warrant for the phone they have a warrant for the information on that phone. That warrant has already passed the sniff test in front of a judge and as I see it, if Apple is admitting they can grant this access but won’t, they are standing on a soapbox trying to change laws. They are entitled to do this, but it doesn’t change the facts or current law as it pertains to this case. So Apple coders brew a pot of coffee, stay up all night long and get this thing built already.

My two bits.

Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay Review: A Love Story

 

East Coast vs. West Coast

On Jan 19, 2016 the way we order coffee and use apps was changed forever because the Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay finally launched in Vancouver. Even though Vancouver is becoming more and more of a tech hub, we still lag behind Toronto, and it’s enraging to us West Coasters. However, I shall put my technology beef aside in order to applaud the glory of the Mobile Order & Pay app because it deserves a standing ovation and a maybe NASCAR champagne celebration. I cannot say enough good things about this app and it thrills me that the hype is legitimate.

 

Mobile ordering and mobile ecommerce is on the rise! Read about how Cyber Monday 2017 broke mobile shopping records here

The original East vs West battle

The original East vs West battle. No doubt they would have bonded over Mobile Order & Pay

Location, location, location

 

I must mention that the first step to get the mobile ordering part of the app is to enable location services. Duh, right?

 [read more="Click here to Read More" less="Read Less"]

Yes, yes it is, but not to me when I first attempted to use it. My app didn’t look like anyone else’s when I compared it with both Android and iPhone users, so I had convinced myself my phone was somehow broken. I shoved my phone in Clarence’s face because he has an iPhone and successfully used the Mobile Order app. To his credit, he did attempt to fix it, and when he couldn’t he just laughed and gave it back to me. No mobile ordering for me apparently. I persevered and instead chose to annoy more people by asking why my mobile app wasn’t working properly. Cue the install, uninstall circle of horror until I had the brainstorm (way too late) to check my location services. Sure enough, it was turned off and as soon as I turned it on, the app transformed into the Mobile Order & Pay that I knew it could. Shout out to Morgan, the greatest Starbucks District Manager in Vancouver, who upon hearing how I finally got the mobile ordering to work, politely stifled his laughter and asked incredulously “Aren’t you...kind of in IT?” YES MORGAN, I KIND OF AM. The shame..the shame is too real.

 

My feelings exactly

My feelings exactly

Justify My Love

Now, let’s begin. Since Starbucks is in my Holy Trinity (the others being Costco and Apple), I expected a certain level of bias on my part, but all my love is completely valid and justified (huzzah!). Apparently, the Mobile Order & Pay is only available at certain stores in Vancouver so don’t yell at me if it’s not working in your neighbourhood. When you use the app, it’ll automatically detect the appropriate stores so you will know right away if you’re able to use the app.

You can check out the store nearest you

You can check out the store nearest you

Once you open the app, you can click on the ‘Order’ section and the entire Starbucks line springs to life before your eyes. Drinks! Fancy baked goods! Overall deliciousness! You can browse the photo menu to get inspiration if you aren’t sure what you want. If you do know what you want, hit ‘Browse Menu’ and the closest store pops up (see why those location services are so handy?) and a list of drinks and food pops up underneath. The scroll shows you if an item is out of stock so you don’t end up going over and not finding the sugar cookie you wanted.

Check out all the options!

Check out all the options!

When you click on the store, you can see the fastest route, how long the mobile order wait is, and a map in case you’ve ventured out of your neighbourhood. I actually had a bit of trouble ordering a vanilla latte because I thought it would appear under the espresso drink category or when I searched the app, but it’s actually an addition to a regular latte. When I clicked on a latte, a bunch more options to customize my drink appeared. The options allow you to add extra shots, every kind of syrup known to humanity, milk type, toppings and much more. If you scroll down more you can read more in depth nutritional and allergy information.

Options galore!

Options galore!

So Much JAVA

Once I ordered my vanilla latte using the mobile order and pay, I put my shoes on and headed out the door to my Starbucks. I felt like a jerk for skipping the line and heading right to the bar to pick up my drink, but it wasn’t there. I waited a minute and then asked if they received my mobile order. They did, but apparently, I was in the wrong spot as I waited for it. Someone reached behind the bar and handed me my drink and I was off. No cash, no lineup and minimal human contact- it was joyous! I still maintain that I was in the right place to get my drink but the barista mockery told me I was not. However, I was the envy of all the plebes standing in line (in the 20th century) to order while I sailed out.

Exact representation of how you feel walking out with your mobile order

Exact representation of how you feel walking out with your mobile order

Round Up

The mobile app has a very small learning curve and once you get used to the little tricks, it’s so simple and user friendly. I don’t enjoy the calorie count listed for every item because I don’t need to be reminded, but I love that the app remembers your last order, so overall it’s a draw. I liked the map because my sense of direction is terrifying so I appreciate anything that can point me in the right direction. The app is so great to use that I can’t imagine other coffee shops and restaurants not implementing something similar. The Mobile Order & Pay is a slam dunk and has changed the way we interact with apps on a daily basis. I look forward to seeing how this technology will change the service industry and save relationships because you won’t get someone’s drink order wrong or be mocked when you order someone’s vanilla bullshit.

It remembers my last order!

It remembers my last order!

**It must be noted (and celebrated) that with the Mobile Order & Pay that my name is ALWAYS correct

Victory for everyone who's had their name butchered at Starbucks!

Victory for everyone who's had their name butchered at Starbucks!

To be the envy of all Starbucks goers, download the mobile app for iOS and Android and never wait in line again! I’ll make sure to avoid eye contact when we pass by each other.

 

Interested in more information on mobile apps? We made an infographic to summarize mobile app statistics from 2017, check it out here. [/read]

The X-Files Revival: Mulder and Scully Are Still Technophobes

As a kid my unhealthy obsession with the X-Files resulted in a lot of Scully Halloween costumes (Go ahead, yuk it up. Thankfully there are no photos) and scaring myself so much I couldn’t sleep. To this day I’m suspicious of vents because of an X-Files episode I saw in 1993. It was a magical time! The X-Files was a cultural touchpoint and pushed the boundaries of the TV landscape which has forever left its mark in our minds and hearts. As such, when the X-Files reboot was announced the internet lit up with excitement. Mulder and Scully were back for another round of investigating paranormal occurrences and fighting the government!

If seeing the X-Files opening credits in primetime again didn’t send a shiver down your spine, you’re dead inside.

Chills, chills, chills

Chills, chills, chills

**There are some spoilers ahead (duh)

Musings from Episode One “My Struggle”

Holy smokes Joel McHale is irritating! From the moment his beat-me face is shown on the TV, I cringed. Even his character’s name, Tad O’Malley, which sounds like a dive bar by a university campus, is horrible. He’s not a terrible actor, this role was just completely wrong for him. The idea of someone being more paranoid and crazy than Mulder is really exciting, but just no. However, I can’t blame him for hitting on Scully though, she’s a national treasure.

Go away, Tad

Go away, Tad

Mulder’s voiceover in the beginning to catch people up to speed was awesome because it showed old photos and monsters (Eugene Tooms will forever be one of the most terrifying villains) but it was strangely executed. Basically, just old set photos were recycled but clearly no one would have been able to take a photo of Mulder and Scully in the freaking forest. Fine, I’ll shut up about that, I know there are creative freedoms required for TV.

One highlight of the first episode was Sveta’s car getting zapped by the alien craft. Throwback to some of the best old X-Files episodes! I enjoyed the throwback to the Roswell crash but it didn’t really go anywhere. However, I did enjoy the government agent gunning down the alien that was trying to crawl away. Let him live! The overarching conspiracy of the first episode didn’t pay off but I appreciate Chris Carter’s attempt. It was cool to see the X-Files set in real time with reference to 9/11 and with Obama laughing about aliens but that wasn’t enough to save it. It was a disappointing first episode that is making me question the entire reboot. Has Chris Carter lost the magic that made the show such a hit?

ICBC probably won't cover that

ICBC probably won’t cover that

Musings from Episode Two “Founder’s Mutation”

Ok, this is exactly what I wanted- there was a cold open and a monster of the week! First off, I need to mention (brag) that the cold open was filmed at the 14 Oranges office at the BCIT Aerospace building! I’ve been missing meeting/seeing Gillian and David for exactly 20 years now so it’s no surprise I missed them again. Sigh. The X-Files have always had fantastic openers in iconic episodes like “Bad Blood”, “Home”, “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” and the “Post-Modern Prometheus” to name a few. I’m glad that “Founder’s Mutation” stayed true to the winning format because it made the show start to feel back in the swing of things after the dismal first episode.

It's our office!

It’s our office!

Founder’s Mutation has the sci-fi goodness that we’ve come to expect and love from the X-Files. I loved that Mulder and Scully were back in the FBI without a hitch. There was no ‘should we, shouldn’t we’ nonsense, it was pure back in the saddle, grab your flashlight goodness. Also, the guy jamming a letter opener into his brain was a throwback to the gory imagery that we so adored 20 years ago. Good work, Chris Carter, you’ve redeemed yourself!

Technology

Mulder and Scully have smartphones! That seems very anti-Mulder because I would imagine a smartphone would be easier for the government to trace but I’ll ignore that. Scully was also using the internet and made a crack about knowing things because she’s “pre-Google” which gave me a chuckle. One thing that was true to the original old school style, but still confuses me is why they continually use flashlights when they could simply turn the actual light on. I’m counting that plot detail in the technology section because today everyone would just use the flashlight on their smartphone.

Just turn the lights on

Just turn the lights on

I enjoyed the plot detail that Mulder was using Uber which was a nice nod to the modern world of car sharing and transportation technology. By extension this means that Mulder knows how to use a mobile app! I’ll be bitterly disappointed if his Uber username is not Spooky.

With several mentions of hard drives and data centers, this episode showed that Mulder and Scully are still not very comfortable using technology.  Instead of hacking the hard drive or stealing it (please bring the Lone Gunmen back for some hacking!), Mulder instead chose to just take the dead guy’s iPhone. They didn’t rely on their phones for directions or information the way that everyone on earth does today.

Overall X-Files Vibe

Mulder and Scully’s first meeting is clearly outside Terminal City Club in Vancouver so right away it felt like home. Vancouver is the perfect setting because every old X-Files episode starts with ominous music and someone getting chased in a forest while it poured rain. It was perfection! After the ‘meh’ of the first episode, the second episode really hit its stride because the old Vancouver feeling was back. It was like being in a time machine watching and picking out the locations around town like when Scully drove through an alley that was clearly Blood Alley in Gastown.

Outside the Terminal City Club in Vancouver

Outside the Terminal City Club in Vancouver

Mulder and Scully

Mulder needs a nap because he looked very tired. I’m not sure if that’s part of his schtick or if David Duchovny is just tired. Scully continues to be flawless and this time she gets a better wardrobe. Their dynamic was great because it picked up right where they left off. They were comfortable with each other, the banter was returning and they were still a dynamic team. I also noticed that Scully did all the driving!

Other Notable Highlights

  • Skinner is on Mulder and Scully’s side this time
  • The Cigarette Smoking Man is back and appears to be badly burned and could get some extra cash by telling kids not to smoke by enjoying a cigarette through his neck hole
  • The original opening credits were used which made me laugh because it seemed lazy and perfect at the same time. It’s iconic!
  • I think I own Scully’s burgundy pencil skirt
  • The weird old man who has never appeared in the show and then won’t tell Mulder anything doesn’t serve much purpose in general and can go away
That's my skirt!

That’s my skirt!

Inspired by my love of the X-Files, I decided I would add another dimension to my X-perience: mobile games! There isn’t an official X-Files mobile game so I had to make due with what was available.

X-Files Mobile Games

Signs and Wonders- The X-Files Version for iOS

First off, I tried to make Scully my avatar and it wanted to charge me $11.99 for that privilege! Outrageous indeed, so I was stuck with Mulder as my second choice. The in-app purchases basically destroyed this game because you couldn’t get into it without having to pay. One basic level is not enough to make me shell out $11.99 for more. The whole game was Mulder jumping through hoops while a non-threatening UFO with a cow in its beam of light hovered nearby. Also, this app had so many ads that it ruined any enjoyment of the game. Every level completion or milestone resulted in an app. Ick.

Someone save that cow

Someone save that cow

Sunshine Days- X-Files Version for iOS

Since the first game was so dismal I decided to try this one. For this game I was also unable to be Scully either! The premise of this game was to jump on platforms while there was a UFO in the background. When you fall off the platform you have to pay points to get another life. Yes, it was that boring. Very disappointing game and graphics that there was no way I would pay a dime to play more.

Love the eyebrows

Love the eyebrows

Telepathy Zero- Test Your Psychic and Telepathic Abilities and Third Eye for iOS

Ok, this is technically not an X-Files game, but I was desperate for something that didn’t elicit rage. There were mercifully no in-app purchases but the game itself was exactly what was promised. I guess I was expecting more, but it’s just guessing what the next shape will be. There was a cool robot named Lisa in the intro that made me think of Sigourney Weaver but it had nothing to do with the game. Turns out, probably to the surprise of no one, that I’m not at all psychic or telepathic. At this point, my iPod is more telepathic than I am because sometimes I’ll be thinking about a song and it’ll play next. That probably explains why I haven’t won the lotto yet.

The high point of the game

The high point of the game

I would recommend powering through the first episode because it’s mainly a set up for what’s next. According to my internet research, episode three is when things get really good. Go forth, watch it, and let me know what you think!

Will the truth be revealed?

Will the truth be revealed?

One Year Married to the Moto 360 – Has My life Changed?

It has been just over one year since I decided to take the plunge and get a wearable, a Moto 360 to be exact. When I got this watch, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect but I was in serious need of a replacement for my 10 year old watch and the Moto 360 was about the same size as my old watch so I figured I should try it out.

Honeymoon

The honeymoon period was great- I just loved the watch. I was finding that I didn’t have to constantly pull my phone out of my pocket to look at notifications. I could also execute quick commands like sending a text message (I have kids that love to text me when I am driving), replying to emails and answering random trivia questions from my kids, all with ease. The speech recognition is fabulous (although it’s the same as my phone but I never got into using it on my smartphone). On a recent trip, I used it to figure out where we were and what how much time we had left (aka are we there yet?). You quickly discover that “OK Google” is awesome even though you do get a few strange looks when you are seen talking into your wrist in public, but when you’re in your honeymoon phase, you don’t care if you’re seen doing it in public. You just do it! I read lots of complaints about battery life but I pick it up from the charger at 6am everyday and by 11pm, it still had ~ 50% of its charge which is better than what my phone could do.

There weren’t too many apps specifically written with the Moto 360 in mind; however, one of my favorite apps Stocard did a really nice job with it. I can quickly select the barcode for the cards I need (usually Save On Foods, Scene card, or Air Miles) and get the cashier to scan it on the spot which is usually accompanied with a “I’ve never done that before, that’s cool!” Yes, another favourite saying heard during our honeymoon.

Realization

Much like with the 7 Stages of Marriage, it didn’t take long for the passion or honeymoon stage to come to an end. For me, it started with the promise of something better. Google released a new version which promised to allow my watch to connect to my phone over wifi instead of bluetooth. This means that I could leave my phone charging in one room but still get my notifications while watching TV in another room. I was really excited about that at first because the phone I had at the time was starting to have battery issues and required more charging. After that install, life was never the same. The bugs, the bugs, the bugs. Arggh!! Where do I start? Suddenly, “OK Google” had less time for me. It kept giving me the “Unable to Connect” error which is the techie equivalent to “I have a headache”. “But I just want to know how tall the Eiffel tower is right now. Not tomorrow!!” The next issue I got, fortunately only a few times, was that the alarms wouldn’t go off. A few times, I setup the alarm for a certain time and that time came and went and no alarm. I was fortunate enough to wake up on my own but now I am always worried that it won’t work. I don’t really want to rely on some exterior help for a basic function like an alarm clock even if I am reminded everyday with a thousand emails how cheap and easy it is to get. Good morning, good morning is how the song goes I think.   

Rebellion – Don’t Make Me Think!

Speaking of alarms, who was the bright person who decided that when you set an alarm, it needs to be set for right this minute? Before the upgrade, when setting an alarm, the watch would remember whatever the last alarm was set to, and it would be offered as the starting point for the next alarm which for most mortals is what they want to do. Now it only takes a few seconds to adjust the wheel to 6:00am the next day so I guess that’s not the end of the world but annoying nonetheless. Finally, once the alarm is set, it would be nice to know that it is so I don’t have to keep asking. Complications is what those things are called according to Apple.

Another annoyance that I have learned to live with is how to turn off Theatre Mode. Theatre Mode is a mode you can put your watch into so that when you are in a movie and you move your arm, the watch screen doesn’t turn on and annoy your neighbour. Turning it on is easy, turning if off is now strange. You go to the same screen where you turned it off and everything looks the same as before, so you tap the button to turn it back off. But, what really happened is that by going back to that screen in the first place, the watch automatically turned it off so you end up turning it on again and again. I got as much feedback here as the standard: “nothing’s wrong, honey”. It took me about three times to figure that one out so a little feedback here would have been useful.

One of my major annoyances with the UI today (come to think of it, it actually started from day one but I wasn’t really ready to admit it) are those toasts that come halfway up.

Your toast is ready

Your toast is ready

In most cases, when you have a toast, you can tap up on it to reveal the full details of the notification; however, when you are listening to music, tapping on the toast pauses the music. Pulling up on it brings the notification that is underneath. “But all I want to do is turn up the volume”. It is like that elusive G thing, you know it is there and sometimes you stumble on it but don’t ask me how.

Cooperation

There were a lot more bugs that I went through, I don’t know if I just got used to them or because I recently upgraded my phone to a Nexus 5X running Marshmallow, but most bugs seem to have settled down. Well, “OK Google” is sometimes worse and won’t even acknowledge that I exist. Other than that, things are good.

Round Up

Now it has been a year and with a few patches and compromises, I have come to (still) love my Moto 360 for the same reason as I did when I first purchased it. It’s not doing everything that it promised it would do when I first got it, but I still prefer having it as opposed to being single. Probably the biggest advantage is that it just takes a few seconds to filter the many notifications that I get during the day. My phone stays in my pockets and that has helped me reduce my smartphone addiction. Gone are the days of “Oh, I got an email, let’s see who it is from,” take the phone out and look, and then decide to reply to the next one in the list, then why not check facebook while at it … so on. Now I see who it’s from and simply swipe them away much like that barista at Starbucks that keeps flirting with me. Life is good!

Robots Riding Hoverboards While Flying a Drone: Grandiose Technology Predictions for 2016

Rose Gold Is the New Black

2015 has been an action packed technology year. We’ve seen hacks, drones and a lot of hoverboards in flames. Aaron Sorkin couldn’t even get people excited about a Steve Jobs movie (too soon guys, give it a decade) and self driving cars have quickly taking over roads in California for testing. New Apple products made rose gold a thing (but still not fetch), Google became Alphabet in a strange and unnecessary creation of a umbrella corporation which will hopefully make more sense in 2016.  Since the end of the year is a wonderful time to make grandiose predictions for the coming year, here goes!

Drones

Duh, right? They have gotten a lot of press with the recent ruling about mandatory FAA registration and people crashing the drones they got from Santa. These unmanned aircrafts have taken off (ha!) and in 2016 they will really continue to dominate the skies and our fascination. Amazon has been promising parcel delivery by drone for some time now and I have a sneaking suspicion that it will hit critical mass in 2016. I can’t wait for the time that an Amazon drone will appear at my balcony with whatever I’ve impulsively bought because their one click purchase is the devil. There’s even a “No Drone Zone” sign on the Arthur Laing bridge heading to the Vancouver airport. How glamorous of us!

*Ranking of my excitement: 9/10

Artificial Intelligence

Nothing scares people more than the idea of an evil robot taking over and killing or enslaving the human race. Evil robots have been a pop culture fixture for decades and that theme won’t end anytime soon. The uncanny valley is one major hurdle keeping AI from breaking into the mainstream the way it should have by now. Ex-Machina came out in 2015 which I have mentioned MANY times in previous posts but I shall beat that dead horse again.  That film was the best AI movie I’ve ever seen because the robots didn’t have an uncanny valley problem, and  it quietly illustrated how utterly terrifying AI can/will be due to our hubris. Terminator is unrealistic while Ex-Machina seems like something that we’ll be hearing about next year. Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak has spoken out against AI but their warnings will be ignored. Apple, Google, Facebook and Elon Musk have open sourced all their AI technology so next year we’ll really start to see AI gain momentum.

Ranking of my excitement: 7/10 (I’m cringing imaging how humans will ruin this)

Hacking

A very clever teenager hacked a CIA Director’s AOL email account, Ashley Madison user data was exposed, Jeeps got hacked on the highway and countless more people got screwed over. Vigilante hacking has also risen to prominence by attacking racist websites, threatening to expose evidence that Making a Murderer’s Steven Avery is innocent and even going after ISIS along with many others. The Sony hack in 2014 opened the floodgates for 2015 and I am very confident that next year will have even more hacks and cyber security breaches. Even Hello Kitty user data was hacked, so apparently kids aren’t even safe. Hacking is coming to the forefront of pop culture again so there will be even more high profile cases than 2015- it offers fame and in some cases, money.

Ranking of my excitement: 8/10

Hoverboards

There’s nothing more rewarding than being proven correct in your baseless predictions of technology trends! My hatred of hoverboards is well documented and now everyday online I see articles about hoverboards catching on fire. So, so, so many articles. Hoverboards should be sold with fire extinguishers (please forward me all royalty cheques for that brilliant idea) but they continue to sell and I continue to see people rolling down the street on them. Even though becoming a human torch is very likely, I still expect hoverboards to have a knockout year in 2016. Hey, even Russell Crowe and a priest (doesn’t that sound like the punchline to a horrible joke?) got in on the hoverboard action. There’s no stopping these silly devices from rolling into our everyday lives once the battery issues get resolved. They need to all catch on fire and rest in the depths of their fiery hell, but the opposite will happen.

Ranking of my excitement: 2/10

The Descent of Apple

I remember when the coloured iMac G3s were first announced in 1998 and desperately wanting one. When the first iPod was released in 2001, the tech world had clearly changed forever. Apple was dominating the industry with their innovative, simple designs and the charismatic Steve Jobs at the helm. I wasn’t interested in technology (shhh, don’t tell 14 Oranges) but I was captivated by Apple’s ability to predict and deliver on consumer trends before we knew we wanted colourful computers and to never use a Sony Discman again. They made non-techies able to appreciate and enjoy technology, which was once the exclusive domain of IT folks.

For years Apple was untouchable and the aspirational dream of most tech people. However, I haven’t been excited about anything Apple has announced in years. YEARS! That’s an eternity in technology time (for those who don’t know, tech time is like dog years). Their keynotes and product reveals don’t hold the same surprise and delight that they once did. I don’t watch the livestream anymore or get excited the way I used to. It kills me to have say this, but I predict 2016 won’t be a glorious year for Apple unless there is a dramatic announcement. I’m not saying they’ll be going broke anytime soon, but their stronghold of the consumer tech arena is loosening and next year will be when we really start to notice.  

Ranking of my excitement: 1/10

At one point the iPod was the pinnacle of sophistication

At one point the iPod was the pinnacle of sophistication

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is an exciting possibility that humans haven’t gotten correct yet. It helps that LeBron James is training in VR, Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR were released and people are becoming more open and curious about the technology. What was once a frontier of weirdness has become more accepted into pop culture as athletes and newspapers are jumping onto the VR bandwagon. Video games and movies are going to be a huge market for VR in 2016 as partnerships between Oculus and 20th Century Fox and some others have been announced. Moviegoers would love to watch a movie in VR because it the possibilities are endless! I can’t wait to experience the excitement of sailing on the Titanic, the terror of huddling in a trench in World War I and watching a gladiator fight (are you not entertained?) in the Roman Coliseum. I think that in 2016, the VR technology will be so much further ahead than it is today that what we have right now will look primitive.  

Ranking of my excitement: 10/10

Wearables

My love/hate relationship with wearables has also been well documented, but I still think 2016 will be the year for smartwatches. The Apple Watch flopped because the first gen model did nothing but subsequent updates have made it more useful. Since the Apple Watch came out, I have not seen anyone wearing it on the streets. Not seeing everyone with the latest Apple offering is strange but given how ‘meh’ the watch was, it’s not surprising. Wearables still have a long way to go in order to hit critical mass, however, I think smartwatches will become more common in 2016. Other wearables like Google Glass most likely will flop again, but FitBits and the health side of wearables will continue to grow.

Ranking of my excitement: 4/10

*My excitement ranking is based on if I’m looking forward to the occurrence and how much I think it will affect my life (it’s all science).

The Final Frontier

If I never see another hoverboard again, it will be too soon. Those things are moronic and fire hazards- good riddance. The endless possibilities of drones is thrilling for my retail and instant gratification purposes- bring on the drones! Artificial intelligence will rise up murder us all (maybe while riding hoverboards) in the future but in the meantime I wouldn’t say no to a robot butler. If I had any talent with a computer I might consider a career as a professional hacker, however, I am not. Hackers will be the new rock stars but instead of comparing top 40 hits, they’ll be comparing hacks. Virtual reality will be really exciting in the coming year and I can’t wait to get to explore places in VR. VR will be a sort of time travel experience that I think a lot of people are excited for (plus, it won’t murder us). Wearables have a lot of necessary improvements but when they get to a Star Trek level of usefulness then they’ll be on everyone and we won’t look back.

3 Reasons Why You’ll Need To Pry the Smartphone Out of My Cold Dead Hands

I remember getting the first iPhone in 2007 and having people actually follow me on the street just to see it live and in colour.  It seemed really strange at the time but it was a sign that technology had dramatically shifted forever.  There were some skeptics in the beginning of the era of touchscreen and a non flip phone but Steve Jobs persevered anyways and look where we are now.

 

iphone.0

Ah, first gen iPhone. Were we ever that young?

 

Smartphones Are Too Much Fun

Working out is my personal hell.  I despise every second of it so anything that will distract me and make it easier is something I’ll gladly jump on. Smartphones come in handy because I can load it up with horrible music and surf the web while pretending I’m anywhere but on an exercise bike.  As much as I adored my old Nokia 8890, my iPhone 6 is so much more useful.  My wonderful Nokia was featured in a Backstreet Boys video, it was still rather useless compared to phones of today. Smartphones today all look alike whereas the earlier phones had some personality and differentiating features (and Nokia had the best UI).  I enjoy scrolling through Instagram when I’m in a waiting room somewhere or checking up on my shark Einstein to make sure he hasn’t eaten anyone.  I can kill hours just surfing the net because it’s the greatest source of entertainment ever and it’s in my pocket.

My favourite cell phone!

My favourite cell phone!

Most Useful Device I’ve Ever Owned

Remember the days (yes, I know how old this makes me sound) when you had to have coins for the parking meter?  Dashing inside a store to get change and then running back out to your car to put the money in (in the rain, it was always raining)?  Those were NOT the good old days for sure.  I love being able to sit in my chair at happy hour and add more money to my parking meter when I get a text from Pay by Phone alerting me that my time is running out. This is the type of technological advancement humanity has been waiting for.  This convenience and simplicity makes having a smartphone something I can’t imagine giving up willingly.  

Another benefit of a smartphone is vast amounts of information at my fingertips.  For example, when I’m cooking and I forget what’s needed in a recipe I can just pull it up on my phone and continue without getting the cookbook.  Plus, my bookshelves thank me for not being loaded down with things I’ll never read.  My old TomTom GPS was great but nothing compared to Google Maps.  The simplicity of not needing to pull over and root around in my glovebox for the GPS is something I never thought would be a big deal but after using directions on a smartphone, it’s a touch of convenience that I appreciate.  Plus, my old GPS would mysteriously turn on in the glovebox and I’d hear an Australian man’s voice suddenly start talking while I was driving alone and it scared me half to death on several occasions.  

Terrifying when it came alive in my glovebox and spoke to me

Terrifying when it came alive in my glovebox and spoke to me

 

Ever been stuck in traffic when the venti Starbucks vanilla bean frappuccino with 2 shots of espresso (seriously, try it) you just finished suddenly hits you?  I’ve been forced to pull into Le Crocodile (thanks for your hospitality!) and throw the keys at the valet while running into the establishment to use their washroom.  Luckily, Charmin has heard my screams and created an app that will show me the nearest washrooms and the cleanest (some even have pictures!).  THIS is what technology and smartphones have done to make our lives easier.  I’m never giving up my phone because then how will I find the nice washrooms?

Improves My Life

Before Google we had to argue and use our brains (gasp!) about trivia and debate who was right or which actor was in a certain TV show or movie.  Now we don’t need to ever think, we can just look it up and save ourselves 20 minutes of arguments and lost friendships.  Smartphones: friendship savers since 2007. To be fair, because we have gotten so bad about this, my friend Erin has implemented a “no Google rule” to some of our debates so we’re forced to figure things out the old fashioned way.  I’m fine with that because I know the answer is in my pocket when we need to look. Plus, I can be wrong and no one will know for sure…  

 

When I was a university student I had my fair share of car repairs and nothing made them more stressful than being stuck somewhere in the dark, without a phone. With a smartphone however, I can look up VW manuals and find out why the coolant light might be on or what type of oil the car needs.  Huzzah! I am now a mechanic!  More importantly, I am able to search for the nearest repair shop, check their reviews and make an informed decision.  

 

Summary

I can use my smartphone to check the weather, read the news, buy Starbucks, turn on my Hue and a million other things.  I don’t want to go back to the Dark Ages of cell phones where Snake was the only game that I could play and I was unable to confirm if Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris all guest starred in the X-Files (they did!).  Being connected all the time means I get to choose when I want to plug in.  If I don’t want to answer emails, then I don’t.  A smartphone gives me the tools and freedom to decide what I want to do.  I prefer having the option of standing in a store and price checking something on amazon.com instead of going home to look online. Smartphones make our lives more seamless.

Star Trek Lied To Me: The Wearables Edition

Ever since I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid, I expected flying cars and teleportation to be real when I grew up.  Some of the wearables and gadgets used on Star Trek have vaguely shaped the technology we use today, but not to the extent my 9 year old heart hoped for.  Wearables have long been promised as the breakthrough technology that will really change how humanity interacts, but I think some major changes are needed before that happens.  Since I don’t know much about technology, but I do know a lot about complaining, I have outlined my thoughts on how wearables should improve.  Apple and Google R&D, please form an orderly queue.  

If You Like It Then You Shoulda Put a Ring On It

Today’s wearable tech can be rather intrusive and not have enough integration into your daily life. Google Glass makes you look crazy so for wearable tech to become more mainstream, it needs to get smaller.  I want wearable tech that I don’t even know is there like an outfit I can control with my iPhone or a ring that will notify me with important updates so I don’t need to have my phone out.  The main purpose for wearable tech is to be seamless and fit in your life.

Did I Stutter?

Personalization is an aspect of wearable technology that is still very much in the development stage.  Siri elicits rage from me like no other technology on earth.  The main time I want to use Siri is when I’m driving or cooking but that seems to be when she goes on strike.  When I’m lost (which is all the time) I want to touch the button and get directions, however I seem to never have the right timing. Here is the usual conversation:

Kirsten: Siri, get directions to home

Siri: Hello Kirsten, what can I do for you?

Kirsten: Get directions home!!!

*Siri has timed out*

Kirsten: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I want my wearable tech (Siri, I’m looking at you) to be intuitive enough to not be tripped up because my timing was off by 2.5 seconds. I want wearables to have the capacity to learn (I know this puts us into scary Ex-Machina or Black Mirror territory) and evolve with my patterns and behaviours.  In my fantasy world, Siri will know that when I’m driving outside of a 10 minute radius from my house that I’m probably lost and so she’s ready to direct me home or to the nearest Starbucks.  I’m hoping the new 3D Touch will have solve some of my Siri induced rage but we shall see.

Roomba House Rules

The Internet of Things excites me because of the possibilities to be the most slothful person on earth are endless.  I have a Philips Hue and a Roomba that I ADORE and they are best household items I’ve ever owned.  To really take the internet of things to the next level, I want everything to be seamlessly connected with my wearables- Hue to automatically turn off the lights when I go to bed and Roomba to know the floor is dirty and clean it.  The new app controlled Roomba excites me but my main Roomba complaint is that you have to pick everything off the floor otherwise it will be eaten (seriously, everything needs to be off the floor or you’ll come home to a sad beeping Roomba with something tangled in its brushes).  

 

My mom and brother have Nest but I haven’t gotten one yet and it’s killing me.  Since the weather in Vancouver is just rain and we don’t get the extreme cold that the rest of Canada gets, I won’t know the delight of having a heated apartment when I walk in the door.  However, my brother (Hi Colin!) lives in Ohio so having an apartment that isn’t subarctic when he comes home is a treat (Colin also has an automatic starter for his car which is I am super jealous of).  I want my home to be connected in a smart, seamless way to my wearable technology that makes sense and is tailored to my habits and lifestyle.  When I’m home, my Apple Watch should communicate to the Nest or Hue without me having to touch a button.

Talk To Me Like One Of Your French Girls

Wearables being connected to the things around us needs to be the next frontier of travel and maps.  Last fall when I visited Versailles (how douchey was that sentence?) I waited in line for entry, then again to get a translator ear piece thing because my French isn’t that good anymore.  I abhor waiting in line so if I could have had a wearable device that would have picked up that I was standing in front of a painting of Marie Antoinette holding court and told me about it, I would have paid money for that.  If you’re lost in a foreign country, useful, intelligent proximity features would completely revolutionize the travel industry and make wearable devices more mainstream.  

Please enjoy this crappy photo of me at Versailles

Please enjoy this crappy photo of me at Versailles

Your FitBit Has The Right To Remain Silent

No matter the technical advancement, there’s a little part of me that’s suspicious of where my information is going and who can access it.  With recent hacks and privacy breaches in the news, it’s not unfounded that people would be worried about the latest wearable tech which collects more personal information about you than your bank. There was a guy in the news who’s FitBit was used against him in court for a personal injury lawsuit so there is reason to be careful with what you’re doing.  However, I try not to be an alarmist so I usually just try to get over myself. I only recently added a password to my iPhone so I’m probably not the most secure user of technology. There’s still a long way to go to get many consumers on board with having a device that monitors your most personal details.  There are tons of benefits to FitBits and other wearables but you still exercise (ha!) caution.

Good thing I don't exercise

Good thing I don’t exercise

Resistance Is Futile

Wearable technology seems to be one of those buzzwords that seems great in theory but hasn’t really panned out in real life.  I was super jazzed about the Apple Watch when it came out but as I complained about before, it was useless.  If people are expected to leap at every new Apple or Android offering, the wearable technology needs to be seamless and make our lives easier.  I don’t want to have an aneurysm screaming at Siri when I’m lost after making a wrong turn (yes, I know I should just learn directions).  I want Siri to learn that I always say the full command instead of waiting for her acknowledgment, so she should adjust to my habits.  Hue should be connected to a smartwatch and know I’m falling asleep on the sofa watching Frasier and either turn the lights off or turn them brighter if I tell it ‘don’t let me fall asleep.’  These little details are the make or break points needed for wearable technology to really gain momentum in the consumer sphere.  Currently I have a super cool light system that lets me choose any colour I want and control it with my phone, but aside from my brother, no one I know owns one. Every time people come over they LOVE checking out the colours on Hue or watching Roomba but no one has actually made the leap to buy either one.  

 

I want the world that Star Trek promised me!